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Archive for the ‘Newport Folk Festival’ Category

[ATTENDED: December 30, 2019] Phish

After last night’s show, I really didn’t have high hopes for knocking out a bunch of songs.  I realize they don’t know what’s on my list, but it sometimes feels like they do and they keep spacing them out to make sure I come back.

For this show I had seats that I bought in the lottery.  I never get good seats in the Phish lottery, but the tickets themselves are very cool–colorful and quite lovely.  But I was up in the 200s for this show.  And once again my row-mates were lame.  Or maybe I’m the lame one.  Whatever the case, this was my first show where I could see the video screen.  The video screen is pretty terrible because the audio and video are out of synch.  However, it did allow me to take a few good pictures of the guys.

Tonight’s trip into the city was much better.  I’d picked a garage in the village, six blocks from Le Poisson Rouge, and this time I knew I’d be able to make the afterparty (Garcia Peoples, Chris Forsyth, Ryley Walker).  I also managed to go into MSG through a different entrance (I really wish I could keep track of which entrances are the best).  I managed to get the shirt that I liked (sold out last night) and get to my seat with ample time to spare.  Let it be known that there is FAR LESS ROOM in the 200s than in the 100s!

But the lights soon dimmed and Trey played the four opening notes that can only mean one thing–“Wilson!”  The very first time I saw Phish, they opened with “Wilson” and it was a wonderful moment.  And sure, I’ve seen it four times, but it is such a great, exciting song live–so much crowd interaction–that I knew it would be a fun night. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-“It’s Christmastime (Let’s Just Survive)” (2019).

I really like Kathleen Edwards and I was so delighted to hear that she was coming out of … semi-retirement?… this summer.  In the last few years, she has opened up her own coffee shop, in Stittsville, Ontario called Quitters Coffee [road trip?].

I couldn’t believe that she played XPN Fest on the year that we had tickets to the Newport Folk Festival.  I had hoped she’s play Newport as well, but sadly no.  She played two new songs and a few older ones and her voice sounds great (thanks YouTube).  In the spirit of coming back, she has released this wryly amusing Christmas song. Like many of her songs, there is a nice mix of humor and bite in this song–set to a very catchy melody.

With a slow lap steel guitar starting the song, she begins

It’s a wonderful time where we all descend to my parent’s house in the West End.  [Hope they subscribe to the West End Phoenix].

Then the song gets to the point:

Uncle Dave and Susan bring their feral cat / and homemade wine that tastes like crap.

There’s a few more examples of amusingly bad Christmas happenings.  One of my favorites is

Someone let the dog lick the gravy boat / and now the air in here unbearable

I also enjoyed this line, because it hits home:

You have a meltdown when we play scrabble / Its not my fault you’re only left with vowels.

Musically, the song is quite lovely.  There’s a pretty bridge where she sings lyrics that sound sweet until you listen closely, “tell me a story we’ve heard before and drag it out even more.”

And just when you think the song is only dark and cynical, the instrumental break adds a refrain of Kathleen quietly singing “meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow.”

I truly hope that this song gets played a lot during this and future holidays.  It may not make it to #1 like “All I Want for Christmas is You,” but it’s a lot more honest–and really catchy.

I’m so excited that Kathleen is back that I’m posting the video for the song right here!

I have also just learned that this song comes from a new Christmas album called A Dualtone Christmas. (although I don’t really like much else on it).

[READ: December 19, 2019] “Letter from San Francisco”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story is indeed a letter from San Francisco.

There are a few things redacted from it–the sender and the recipient’s names and two lines in the middle which are the details of their huge fight. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 8, 2019] Illiterate Light

I had heard of Illiterate Light from NPR, but didn’t really know them.  They played at Newport Folk Festival but were early on Saturday and we arrived after them.

Traffic getting to this show was terrible and I was annoyed that we’d miss Illiterate Light (or part of their set anyhow).  S. said she didn’t mind missing the opening act as long as we made it for The Head and the Heart.

We walked in just as Illiterate Light took the stage and we got seated around the middle of the first song.  And I couldn’t get over how loud they were (particularly opening for a not-especially-loud band like The Head and the Heart).  They had big rocking guitar and crashing drums.

Then I looked up and realized that there were only two of them on stage. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHIANNON GIDDENS-Tiny Desk Concert #890 (September 16, 2019).

I have been aware of Rhiannon Giddens for some time.  I knew she played the banjo, but I didn’t know much else about her.  I saw her (as part of an ensemble) at the Newport Folk Festival.

For some reason I was sure that she had performed a Tiny Desk Concert before, but evidently not.  Maybe I watched this when it came out?  That doesn’t seem right either.

So I’ll stop thinking about it and write about this Tiny Desk Concert instead.

There is an intensity to Rhiannon Giddens I could feel from the moment she arrived at the Tiny Desk, and her songs reflect that spirit.

Giddens is a founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops (and Our Native Daughters, who played at Newport), an old-timey string band.  But for this Tiny Desk Concert, she is accompanied by upright bass (Jason Sypher) and a whole bunch of other instruments played by Francesco Turrisi.

Giddens and Turrisi had recently collaborated on an album which World Cafe Live describes:

While Rhiannon’s work has focused on the influence of African traditions on what we think of as American music, Francesco is an expert in the often unacknowledged influence of Arabic and Middle Eastern music on what we think of as European sound. They found common ground in their quest to dispel false cultural narratives and turned it into gorgeous music on a new collaborative album called there is no Other.

For the first song, Turrisi plays banjo (although this one looks different from a typical banjo) while Giddens sings and Sypher adds deep slow resonating bass notes.

“Ten Thousand Voices,” the first song in the set, was inspired by Rhiannon reading about the sub-Saharan slave trade.

The combination of Giddens’ lyrics with Turrisi’s middle-eastern sounding banjo is wonderfully compelling.

She explains that the second song, “At the Purchaser’s Option”

was inspired by the American slave trade and a New England newspaper ad in the late 1700s of a young woman “for sale” and her 9-month old baby who was “at the purchaser’s option.” Rhiannon Giddens’ thoughts of this young woman and how her life and her child were not under her control.

That is a pretty intense introduction and inspiration for a song.

Despite its weightiness, Rhiannon Giddens’ music is entertaining, and her voice, the melodies, and her accompaniment are engaging. But it is music infused with lessons and deep purpose — something all too rare in popular music in my opinion.

Turrisi switches to piano which really changes the texture of the music. Sypher plucks the strings on this songs which gives it a bit more of a “song” feel than a “composition” feel.  The chorus is also memorable both for the melody and the powerful lyrics.

My favorite track is the third one, “I’m On My Way.”

Rhiannon picks up a replica of an 1858 banjo for “I’m On My Way,” which she says helps her access her ancestors. “So much beauty and so much horribleness wrapped up together seems to be our story,” she says.

While Turrisi is certainly an excellent banjo player, it’s great to hear Giddens play as well.  Especially this fascinating fretless banjo.  Turrisi plays the frame drum–different from an Irish bodhran in that it seems to have snares in it.  The plucked bass along with the addition of percussion and the great banjo melody are just fantastic. When Sypher switches to bowing, for a solo, it adds a whole new dimension–especially when he slides all the way up the neck to get the highest note possible.

T final song is the gospel tune, “He Will See You Through.”  Giddens puts down the banjo again (awww).

For her closing number, she focuses on the beauty. “You can call it whatever you want, ‘gravity,’ ‘God,’ whatever. There’s a force that I believe in, and that’s what I focus on.”

[READ: July 3, 2019] “Stuart”

I love the way that this story unfolded.  It begins in one location and moves only a few blocks by the end.  But the kicker is that it starts with one character and ends with someone else.  It read kind of like an early David Foster Wallace story.

The story opens by telling us about two Greek immigrants working at a hot dog truck.  They are described in vivid (rather unflattering) detail.  While they get their food ready, three teenage boys walk up.  They are pretty much identical except for the color of their shirts  She describes them vividly as well.

They have man-sized hands sprouting from elongated, spindly limbs like the extremities of flamingos, and their feet are so huge they might be prehensile.  There’s nothing in the backside of their immense, baggy jeans.

They boys order hot dogs and ask for them quickly “before they fucking catch up with us, eh?” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NILÜFER YANYA-Tiny Desk Concert #891 (September 18, 2019).

I saw Nilüfer Yanya open for Sharon Van Etten.  I was pretty excited to see her because of all the buzz that I was hearing about her.  Her set was good, although I feel like she seemed a bit nervous (maybe not, who knows).

This past summer, I was happy to see she was playing at Newport Folk Festival, but we arrived too late to see her (bummer).

This Tiny Desk Concert doesn’t really make her music quieter–it’s pretty quiet to begin with.  Maybe not quiet, exactly, but restrained.

There’s a hush to the music of Nilüfer Yanya that made the Tiny Desk the perfect stage for her sound. On a hot summer day, the British singer and her band — made up of Jazzi Bobbi primarily on sax, Lucy Lu on bass, Ellis Dupuy on drums and Nilüfer on guitar and vocals — performed their three-song set with restraint and subtlety. At moments, the music felt like an eruption waiting to happen, though the suave, refined sound left an indelible vibe in the room.

Yanya plays three songs (all from her album Miss Universe.)  Only one of those song had I heard live.  And surprisingly to me, she didn’t play what I think of as her biggest hit (and the one I like most), “In My Head.”

The set starts with “Baby Luv,” her first single.  I like the staccato feel of everything in this song–from the guitars to her vocal style.  I also really like the gentle synth notes from Jazzi Bobbi.  Bob Boilen seems to really like the lyrics, although I don’t really get it:

“Do you like pain?
Again, again, again, again
Again, oh, again
Do you like pain?”

I thin what’s most interesting (and polariziang I guess) is her vocal delivery: “thickly accented, laid-back vocals”

I don’t know anyone who sings like Nilüfer, but I’m reminded of Astrud Gilberto singing bossa nova. There’s a sophisticated sensibility rough enough around the edges that I find captivating.

 

I really like the chord progression of “The Unordained.”  There’s a lot more jaggedness in the middle section with some cymbal crashes and loud chords.  Jazzi Bobbi plays a quiet sax solo over the end.

For “Angels” Lucy Lu moves to synth while Jazzi Bobbi intros with a jazzi solo.  This song builds the most and is the least spare of her songs.  The end of the song includes some nice backing vocals and more of Jazzi’s quiet sax.

[READ: October 6, 2019] “Shape-Ups at Delilah’s”

This is a story about a barber.  A lady barber!

It starts with the barber, Tiny, giving her boyfriend Jerome a haircut.  Jerome’s brother was beaten up and hospitalized and Jerome bawled his eyes out.  Tiny made him sit on a stool and while he cried, she sheared his knotty beads for two hours.  His hair looked great.  And they were both spent.

He looked in the mirror and his eyes said Where in the hell did a woman, a W-O-M-A-N, learn to cut like that? (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 27 & 28, 2019] Newport Folk Festival

Back in 1998, I won a radio contest (not through luck, I knew the name of a song and couldn’t believe no one else did!) and scored a ticket to the Newport Folk Festival.  It was in a lull back then and also, I believe there was only one stage (it’s hard to remember).  Now it is at full power, selling out before artists are even announced.

S. and I have talked about going and finally this year I saw when tickets were announced and I bought 4 tickets for us.  I knew that our son wouldn’t want to go, but I decided to make a long vacation out of it–a couple days in Rhode Island and then about a week in Maine.  He couldn’t say no to going to that.

I didn’t get Friday tickets because three days seemed excessive.  Plus, you never know who is going to appear until long after you buy the tickets. and that actually worked out pretty well.   Turned out, there wasn’t anyone I really wanted to see.

So we rolled in for Saturday.  I was told that if you wanted to get the poster you had to get their very early.  We arrived at 12:30 and they were long sold out.  Oh well. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 28, 2019] Hozier @ Newport Folk Festival

Ever since I learned that Hozier’s “Nina Cried Power” featured Mavis Staples who knew Nina Simone, I was more blown away by the song.

From Billboard:

it was important to me to have Mavis involved. She was kind of there at the beginning of the song. Even when the song was in its embryonic state and the idea of it was forming, I wanted to credit the legacy of the artists in that song and the names were kind of popping into my head, [and] I knew it needed Mavis. I just felt incredibly fortunate and honored that she got where the song was coming from and vibed with it and was up for being a part of the song.

I’d already been impressed by “Take Me to Church” and “Jackie & Wilson,” so I knew I’d want to see him live. (more…)

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